Palace Gardens (Brisbane)
The Palace Gardens, situated on the corner of Ann St and North Quay, opposite the Supreme Court, opened its doors in Exhibition Week 1912. 10 August saw George Stephenson’s Refined Pierrot Costume Comedy Company, the Wanderers, and the Welsh raconteur, Sydney Bach, performing together on the opening bill which consisted of songs, concerted duets and scenas on. Several films were also featured on the program. The management’s opening boast was that the Palace Gardens was “the finest place of open air entertainment in the Commonwealth!” (Brisbane Courier 10 Aug. 1912: 2). Brisbane’s climate was particularly conducive to the construction and patronage of open-air venues; this made such theatres as the Palace Gardens, with a seating capacity of 2000, enjoyable summer venues. “The pleasantly cool conditions at the Palace Gardens have been much appreciated by the large audiences” (Brisbane Courier 19 Nov. 1914: 9).
One of the perceived benefits of the open-air venues was that audience members could smoke if they desired. “There was an unconventional air about the palace Gardens which appealed to all, and which allowed the smoker to indulge his fancy to his heart’s content without trespassing on the likes or the dislikes of others” (Brisbane Courier 12 Aug. 1912: 12). Light refreshments were served from a buffet situated on one side of the stage and those seated in the Gallery were served in a special roof garden (Brisbane Courier 5 Aug. 1912: 8)  . Refreshments were served according to “the American principle” and supper could be purchased after the show (BC 3 Aug. 1912: 6). To continue the ‘garden’ theme “the entire available space has been planted with palms and other plants” (Brisbane Courier 5 Aug. 1912: 8). The following auction advertisement provides details of the site:
FOR SALE BY PUBLIC AUCTION
IN THE MART, AT 11 O’CLOCK.
(By Order of Messrs. Branscombes, Ltd. )
VALUABLE PROPERTY AT THE CORNER OF NORTH QUAY AND ANN-STREET, KNOWN AS
PALACE GARDENS THEATRE.Comprising Allotment 9 and Subdivision 2 of Allotment 8 of Section 14, Parish of North Brisbane, containing 1 rood 20 1/10 perches, having a frontage of 115ft. 8in. to North Quay, and a frontage of 132ft. to Ann-street, with improvements comprising Large Brick Open-Air Theatre, also manager’s brick office, raised platform with quantity of fixed seating, &c.Magnificent opportunity for any one desirous of securing an Open-air Theatre, Picture Show, &c. (Brisbane Courier 22 Nov. 1915: 2)
The managements of open-air theatres needed to gamble on the weather conditions for the success of their seasons. On the whole this seems to have been successful, although performances would frequently be washed out. The Buckler-Paget Company’s “experiment with the open-air theatre has met with considerable favour. With a clear sky overhead it is just the ideal thing for the summer months. With rain, under present conditions, it is just the reverse. That is one of the risks that management have to take” (Brisbane Courier 5 Dec. 1914: 12). The closure of the Palace Gardens was inevitable given that Brisbane’s summers are usually wet; the theatre closed in 1924.
 One review states that the buffet is on the left-hand side of the stage (Brisbane Courier 5 Aug. 1912: 8), while another describes it as being on the right (Brisbane Courier 3 Aug. 1912:6).